Jude Bellingham enjoys 'really special' Real Madrid debut after scoring in win at Bilbao

England midfielder scores the second goal in a 2-0 La Liga victory at San Mames

Soccer Football - Spain - LaLiga - Athletic Bilbao v Real Madrid - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain - August 12, 2023 Real Madrid's Jude Bellingham celebrates scoring their second goal with Aurelien Tchouameni REUTERS / Vincent West
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Jude Bellingham drew praise from teammates and his manager after scoring on his Real Madrid debut in the 2-0 La Liga win at Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Despite concerns at both ends of the pitch, Carlo Ancelotti's side earned a convincing victory at the San Mames to kick off their title bid, with Rodrygo opening the scoring in the 28th minute. Bellingham, a €103 million summer signing from Borussia Dortmund, then doubled Madrid's lead eight minutes later.

"It's really special, the most important thing is the win," Bellingham told Real Madrid TV.

Madrid entered the new season with potential issues both in goal and attack. Talismanic striker Karim Benzema left the club for Saudi champions Al Ittihad, while No 1 goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is set to miss most of the season after suffering a a cruciate ligament injury.

So far, neither key player has been replaced as Madrid continue their long pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe and options are being evaluated to cover Courtois' absence, including a loan deal for Chelsea stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Still, Madrid impressed with Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo working well as a strike duo, with Bellingham in the No 10 role at the tip of a diamond midfield offering ample support.

Ancelotti, who will take over the Brazil national team at the end of this campaign, handed defender Fran Garcia his second Madrid debut after his return from Rayo Vallecano.

However, it was Bellingham's name that stood out and the 20-year-old midfielder demonstrated why Madrid made him their marquee summer signing.

"I'm very happy to play with (Bellingham), he's a great player, and I'm sure he'll help us a lot this season," said Rodrygo.

Real Madrid's win at Athletic Bilbao – in pictures

Ancelotti also hailed the England international on his impressive debut.

"(He was) very good, he's got personality, being here motivates him a lot," said the Madrid manager. "He's a fantastic player, a very important signing – he's out of the ordinary."

Madrid took the lead before the half-hour mark when Dani Carvajal hooked the ball back to Rodrygo, who slotted past Unai Simon at his near post.

The goalkeeper managed to force David Alaba's header onto the post and thwarted Vinicius after he burst into the box, but Bellingham soon added Madrid's second.

The England international netted in unorthodox fashion, volleying Alaba's corner into the ground and over Simon.

Bellingham stood still, facing the home fans with arms wide in celebration, as if announcing his arrival to La Liga – drawing a rebuke from Athletic captain Iker Muniain.

"I've always been taught if you try and hit the target you can score," said Bellingham. "I didn't make the best contact with it, I was a little bit lucky, but it worked."

Former Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde made a triple change at half-time to try and pull Athletic back into the game.

Madrid were forced into a change themselves early in the second half when Eder Militao hurt his knee and was replaced by Antonio Rudiger.

Bellingham continued to impress in the second half, bursting forward from deep into dangerous territory, but the move eventually broke down.

Wearing former Madrid midfielder Zinedine Zidane's No 5, the former Birmingham City man started as he means to go on.

Vinicius, making his first away appearance in La Liga since being racially abused by Valencia fans in May, was occasionally whistled by Athletic supporters.

The forward made way in the final stages for another debutant, Joselu, whom Madrid loaned from relegated Espanyol, as Los Blancos saw out their opening weekend win with ease.

Champions Barcelona start their title defence at Getafe on Sunday.

Updated: August 13, 2023, 5:52 AM